Sometimes you think you’re going to teach a group of people about a concept or particular principle, but what happens is that you leave humbled by the depth of their understanding. They end up teaching you.
I recently drove to Schererville, Indiana one spring Sunday evening with the intention of sharing our family’s journey of faith through tragedy. I had everything planned (as all good planners do) with a slideshow, video, and talking points. Driving there was my main source of anxiety. I thought to myself, This will be a piece of cake. They’re teenagers. Little did I know that their words would inspire me far more than mine inspired them.
After I presented about Sarah’s rare disease and a few points in my new book about redemptive suffering and the value of love found in suffering, the room fell silent. I did as I always do and ask if anyone has any questions or comments, but I was met with that same agonizing nothingness that is worse than being bombarded with a million responses.
Great. Another fail, I thought with defeat. I really believed these kids would find something to resonate with. Maybe I missed the mark – again.
In their wisdom, the youth leaders suggested we take a quick break. I forget sometimes that speaking about loss and suffering is such an intense topic that most people need a break to process the information and subsequent emotions. In this case, the kids needed some time to think and put their thoughts in order before addressing me.
When we returned, I waited again with a few moments of silence. The youth leaders encouraged me to wait, that they were sure a few kids had some questions or comments, so I did. And the hands started to slowly, but surely, rise in the air.
The first one to speak, a young woman, trembled as she explained, “I’ve been reading this book for my World History class about the Holocaust, and I’m constantly disgusted and tormented by the horrors I read. When I got to the point in learning that live babies were thrown into the furnace, I really started to question if God existed, and if so, why He would allow this evil. After hearing your talk today, I received my answer. I know now that suffering has a purpose.”
I was shocked, speechless, but they continued:
Another girl was weeping and told me that she felt the presence of Our Lady with me as I spoke.
One of the youth leaders said he saw something in Sarah that indicated the presence of spiritual giftedness.
A quieter girl in the back of the room shared with the group that she is part of a group at school that includes kids with disabilities and how that has enriched her life. She thanked me for sharing my story, because it reminded her that the work she is called to do to educate and advocate for these kids matters.
Privately, a few kids shared their own journeys with grief. One girl said she had battled leukemia for years and feels called to write her story. A young man mentioned that his sister has a rare type of seizure disorder that reduced her to a catatonia, yet his family has remained faithful to God, and they truly believe her suffering has merit.
After all of that, I realized something incredible: These kids know what I’m talking about. In fact, they are living it. They probably know more about it than I do.
But God uses us as His vessels of charity. It only takes a “yes” to bring to light magnificent and grand things in His design. I never fathomed the evening would end the way it did. In fact, I think I had low expectations just to avoid disappointment. One young woman said, “I admire you for doing this. How do you get up and speak about something so hard?” My response to her is the same as my response to you:
It begins with a “yes.”
You have to be open to what the Holy Spirit is asking of you and where He is leading you. It may not be convenient (often it isn’t – I had to drive 2 hours one way in another time zone for this talk). It may not be desirable. It may not pay much in terms of worldly success. But the eternal rewards are discovered in the fruit of your “yes.”
Start today with your “yes” to God, and be amazed as tiny miracles unfold before your eyes.
Text Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.
Image Copyright 2016 “Religious” by Unsplash on Pixabay and edited in Canva by Jeannie Ewing.